Student news

Date published: 15 February 2013

Date: 11th February 2013
Publication: The Australian Financial Review
Title: Open Unis Smarten Course Delivery
Journalist: Tim Dodd

Australia's largest provider of online tertiary education, Open Universities Australia, will revamp the delivery style of its courses to make them more compelling and engaging for students.

OUA's new course presentation style will be modular, in short grabs, which students can choose to repeat to get a better grasp of the course material. At each stage, learning is tested with a short online quiz.

In adopting this style, OUA is learning from the success of MOOCs (massive open online courses) which, in less than a year, have attracted millions of students worldwide using this type of pedagogy.

OUA chief executive officer Paul Wappett said the new course delivery approach was "clearly something which has been driven by the MOOCs which the rest of the sector is having to take notice of".

The advantage to the student of MOOC-style learning is that students move at their own pace and do not have to grapple with a new concept until they have firmly grasped the last one. But OUA aims to go a step further and enable students to take different pathways through the course material, based on what the students already know, as revealed in the short tests.

"Every student [at the moment] gets the same material at the same pace and in the same sequence and we want to change that," Mr Wappett said.

OUA presents courses provided by 21 different Australian universities and TAFEs and will also work to present them as a more integrated and customer-focused product.

"We want to get much greater consistency in the way our courses. are designed and developed," Mr Wappett said. He said all new OUA courses would be developed in this way and, over about two years, it was planned that all units offered "would have these characteristics". He said there would also be a strong emphasis on high production quality.

OUA offers more than 180 online courses, including undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, as well as vocational qualifications. Last year, more than 60,000 students were enrolled. Course fees are similar to what students pay at an on-campus university.

Mr Wappett said that OUA was continuing to experience strong growth but the online education market was becoming more competitive.

"When you are successful in a market like this, you spawn innovators. For a long time OUA was the only game in town," he said.

But he believes the new style of course delivery will attract students and make them more successful. "We have absolute faith that the number of people who will complete education, delivered in this way, will be substantially greater and as a result, the economic benefits will flow for all," he said.

OUA is jointly owned by seven universities Curtin, Monash, Macquarie, Griffith, RMIT, Swinburne and the University of South Australia.